5 Things to Avoid With Volunteer Background Checks

volunteer background checks Most days I feel like Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day (if you just said who, here is a link Groundhog Day).  I feel like I am saying or emailing the same thing over and over again.  Especially when it is answering questions about volunteer background checks.

“How much does a volunteer background check cost?” is almost always how the conversation begins.  I take a deep breath and start the education process, hoping I have an eager student.  If the second question is still price, then I realize they are only after the cheapest product and safety and security is not their top concern.

I swallow hard but tell them our focus is on quality.  We are not going to lower our standards just to compete on a price that is just a few dollars cheaper.  Doing background screening correctly requires us to draw a line in the sand and allowing a few clients to walk away.  I will not place a child at risk to make a few bucks.

A couple times a month the conversation starts with a question about how far back our searches go.  Now I know I have an attentive student.  They have obviously been burned by a cheap background check.  This is always an eager student.

So I thought I would recap one of my daily conversations and give you the 5 things to avoid with volunteer background checks:

  1. Assuming volunteer background checks expose our organization to less risk.  A volunteer who only enters our organization periodically creates as much risk to our staff, children, and populations we serve as does an employee.  We know from years of research that a sex offender will take unbelievable risk to satisfy their sick desires.  Recent case law has displayed a growing trend of holding organizations accountable under Predatory in the Primary or Negligent Hiring Doctrine when a volunteer harms a child.  Yes, negligent hiring in a volunteer case.  Southport, Indiana Little League was successfully sued (Southport Little League V. Vaughan) under negligent hiring for allowing a convicted sex offender to coach and he molested 2 young boys.
  2. Cost should not be the most important factor.  I cannot say this enough (even though it feels like I do).  Cheap or free background checks are NEVER a safe option.  First, there is no such thing as free.     Sex offender registries are tools.  Just yesterday we found a convicted sex offender who was not on the registry.  Secondly, there is no such thing as a quality $10 background check.
  3. A “national criminal database” search is all we need.  Never!  These databases are tools.  Nothing more.  They work well within a larger screening package of checks and balances.   But this search cannot stand alone.
  4. Background screening industry giants will be our best partner.  Not necessarily.  Many of the big dogs in the background screening industry adhere to the same low quality volunteer background checks standards of peddling a database search or only requiring a county criminal search in states with limited data in the database.  Changing the way a large organization does business is like making a u-turn in an ocean liner.  These low quality screening standards are deeply entrenched.
  5. Not asking enough questions of your potential background screening partner.  We should conduct due diligence on potential background screening partners to determine if their quality standards, technology, security, and customer service are acceptable.

Truthfully, most volunteer organizations are at a disadvantage when selecting a background screening partner and screening program because:

  • The screening industry understands volunteer organizations are often cash-strapped.  Many firms prey upon this by offering cheap products even though they know they are not suitable for protecting organizations; and
  • Volunteer organizations have no idea what questions they should be asking potential screening partners.  Why would you?

Let me help you out.  Download our whitepaper 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Background Screening Firm and you will be well on your way to understanding the background screening industry.  You will also be armed with 10 questions that all quality screening firms will be able to answer.